Southeastern Conference Preview

SEC preview: Power shift taking place in football's toughest league

schedule makes georgia a title contender

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistAugust 28, 2012 

SEC Championship Football

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray set a school record with 35 touchdown passes last season. "We want to score 40 or 50 points or more per game," Murray said. "That's our goal. We have the firepower at running back, at tight end, at receiver. We have a great offensive line. We're capable of doing that."


Of the Southeastern Conference's six BCS championships in a row, four (Alabama two, LSU and Auburn once each) have been won by schools from the Western Division.

Even as strong as defending national champ Alabama and reigning SEC champion LSU are expected to be, I think this could be the year when the balance of power starts to swing back toward the East (projected overall and conference records in parentheses):

SEC East

1. Georgia (11-1, 7-1). For the second straight season, the Bulldogs have a schedule that does not include SEC West titans Alabama, LSU or Arkansas.

1. Florida (10-2, 7-1). Ex-UK offensive coordinator Brent Pease replaces Charlie Weis calling plays for Will Muschamp. With 17 starters returning, flying-below-the-radar Gators are dangerous.

3. South Carolina (9-3, 6-2). Back-to-back road games at LSU and Florida are going to cost the Head Ball Coach the Eastern Division championship.

4. Tennessee (7-5, 3-5). Will six wins and a minor bowl bid buy Derek Dooley another season?

4. Vanderbilt (6-6, 3-5). Six wins should put Vanderbilt (15 returning starters) in a bowl game in consecutive seasons for the first time ever.

6. Missouri (5-7, 2-6). In its first season in the SEC, it is the outcome of a testy road game at Central Florida that could determine whether Mizzou is eligible for an eighth straight bowl game.

7. Kentucky (4-8, 1-7). If the abundant young players on the Kentucky roster show promise, does that buy Joker Phillips a fourth season?

SEC West

1. LSU (11-1, 7-1). Better quarterback play this season (from ex-Georgia QB Zach Mettenberger) will help compensate for the unexpected loss of the Honey Badger.

1. Alabama (11-1, 7-1). Last time 'Bama was defending national champion, it lost three games in 2010. Nick Saban will use that as motivation to ensure something similar doesn't happen in 2012.

3. Arkansas (8-4, 4-4). Though John L. Smith inherits a roster loaded with proven offensive play-makers, the Hogs are going to find that Bobby Petrino's offense doesn't work nearly as well without Bobby Petrino calling the plays.

3. Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4). Bulldogs get the "50-50 games" at home in 2012 and need to take advantage.

5. Texas A&M (7-5, 3-5). Kevin Sumlin built a reputation as an offensive genius at Houston and now gets to test himself in the best conference in college football.

6. Auburn (5-7, 2-6). Gene Chizik is on his way to finding out that, in the SEC, the seats get blistering hot beneath even national championship-winning coaches.

7. Mississippi (3-9, 0-8). After last season's collapse (2-10, 0-8) cost Houston Nutt his job, new coach Hugh Freeze (who led Arkansas State to 10 wins last season) should get a contract extension if he somehow wins a couple of SEC games.

SEC Championship

Georgia 28, LSU 26

SEC bowl teams

BCS Championship Game: Georgia

Sugar: LSU

Capital One: Alabama

Cotton: South Carolina

Outback: Florida

Chick-fil-A: Arkansas

Gator: Mississippi State

Music City: Tennessee

Liberty: Texas A&M

BBVA Compass: Vanderbilt

Independence: No SEC entrant eligible

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Email: Twitter: @markcstory. Blog:

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